State Bill Includes $7.8 Million for Water Work

The Oregon legislature has approved $7.8 million in funding to the Confederated Tribes for three key water projects on the reservation. With Gov. Brown’s signature the bill becomes law.

The $7.8 million is part of 2019 House Bill 5030, a so-called ‘Christmas tree’ bill, allocating more than $270 million for many projects across the state.
The $7.8 million is apparently much more than the tribes have ever received in a state bill of this kind. The revenue comes from the Oregon Lottery. The state plans to issue the Lottery bonds for the HB5030 projects in 2021. For this reason the funding would be available sometime after the bond issuance.

Still, the appropriation to the tribes could be used now as a match to leverage other funding from federal agencies or other sources—for the reservation water system. And in occasional rare cases, based on immediacy of need, for instance – some of the state funding could possibly be made available before the actual 2021 bond issuance.

Oregon Sen. Cliff Bentz and Rep. Daniel Bonham were advocates for the tribes’ inclusion in HB5030. Sen. Bentz, R-District 30, and Rep. Bonham, R-District 59, represent the reservation area in the Oregon legislature.

They’ve been aware of the tribal water situation for some time, corresponding with tribal Chief Operations Officer Alyssa Macy. In a letter earlier this year to Sen. Bentz and Rep. Bonham, Ms. Macy summarized the situation: “The Confederated Tribes has been challenged for decades with aging water and sewer systems which are major barriers to economic and community growth, housing development, and job creation on the Warm Springs Reservation.

“While there has been progress to address major deficiencies at the Warm Springs Water Treatment Plant and the Wastewater Treatment Plant, large capital infrastructure investments are needed in order for the tribe to have a strong utility foundation to build upon.”

Ms. Macy listed five of the most important project:

  • Downtown public works
  • Industrial park public works
  • Wastewater treatment plant update
  • Water meter project
  • Water distribution project

The total cost is estimated at $13 million.

HB5030 provides $7.8 million for three of these projects:
• Wastewater plant update ($1.3 million)
• Water meter project ($2.5 million)
• Water distribution project ($4 million).

The water distribution problem in the Agency area has become the most noticeable, especially since last fall. And then in May a worst-case scenario happened with the 14-inch water-line break up Shitike Creek. The break was the most critical, though not the only major problem: The old water pressure regulating system serving the area is a related element of the overall situation.

The Agency area water meter project has been an idea for the last few years, with a preliminary engineering report complete in 2017. Metering and a rate system can be required in order to obtain funding for water improvements; and metering would help resolve the extensive water system leakage.